Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, is playing like a man on a mission in the Cactus League this spring. He went 2-for-3 on Thursday and is now 11-for-22 with a homer, six RBIs and five runs for the Chicago White Sox. When the White Sox were courting Manny Machado, there was speculation that Anderson would lose his shortstop job to the touted free agent. The outspoken Anderson, the team’s starter at short since 2016, wasn’t about to just step aside. “He knew what he could do, and he was going … to show everybody that he was going to hold on to that particular position,” ChiSox manager Rick Renteria recently told the Northwest (Chicago) Herald. Machado signed with San Diego. The White Sox will be just fine at shortstop, as Anderson himself would tell you. “(T)he sky’s the limit. I’m excited where I’m at and the direction I’m headed,” he told the Northwest Herald. He hit .240 with 20 homers and 26 steals last season. … Mississippi State product Adam Frazier and Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson, top-of-the-order hitters in Pittsburgh’s lineup, also have hit the ground running this spring. Frazier homered Thursday and is 2-for-5 in his two games, while Dickerson is 5-for-9 in three games after a 2-for-3 day in the Grapefruit League. P.S. After finishing last season on the disabled list, there’s a chance ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart will start this season on what is now being called the injured list. Vying this spring to start at either third base or second for the Los Angeles Angels, Cozart has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 left calf strain and reportedly will be out for a few weeks. The season starts March 28. Cozart, 33, was scratched from the Angels’ lineup with tightness in his calf last Sunday and is receiving treatment. He played just 58 games in 2018 – after signing as a free agent — because of a left shoulder injury that required surgery. Early in camp, he was rarin’ to go. “I was actually shocked, in a good way, how good I felt so early,” he told the Orange County Register just after reporting. “It’s doing great.” The calf injury is quite a blow.
Jarrod Dyson, who missed the second half of the 2018 season with a groin injury, has yet to appear in a spring training game for Arizona because of another injury: a strained left oblique. The 34-year-old McComb native reportedly hurt himself playing catch earlier this week. Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told mlb.com: “He’s not going to miss a big chunk of time.” Still, oblique injuries can be tricky, and Dyson has a history of hurts. In 2017, with Seattle, he hit .251 with 28 bags while missing the last few weeks of the season with another groin injury. He also had an oblique issue in Kansas City in 2016, when he had his best MLB campaign, batting .278 with 30 steals. He won a ring with the ’15 Royals. In his second season with Arizona, Dyson is expected to back up Ketel Marte in center field and also play a role as a pinch runner and hitter. In 67 games last year, Dyson batted .189 with 16 steals. P.S. Mitch Moreland has yet to appear in a game for Boston, but the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory isn’t hurt. Red Sox manager Alex Cora reportedly is holding back some of the older veterans. Moreland, 33, played 124 games last year and 11 more during the long postseason for the world champion BoSox. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart was back in the lineup today for the Los Angeles Angels after being scratched from a Monday start as a precaution over shoulder soreness. Cozart is coming back from shoulder surgery that curtailed his 2018 season.
Zack Cozart is in comeback mode as he enters Year 2 of his 3-year, $38 million free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2018 season was a big disappointment for the ex-Ole Miss standout. He hit .219 with five home runs in 58 games and was done following shoulder surgery in June. In 2017, his last year in Cincinnati, he put up career numbers (.297, 24 homers, 63 RBIs) and made the All-Star Game at shortstop. The Angels signed him, initially to play second base, then shifting him to third. Heading into spring training, it’s unclear where Cozart, now 33, will play or if he’ll even play full-time. The team depth chart on mlb.com lists him at both second and third. Younger players are nipping at his heels. From halohangout.com: “His 2017 season was a fluke in many ways, from his sudden explosion of power to his ability to hit for average and even his durability.” With Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton in the lineup, the Angels are an intriguing club desperate to make the postseason. They’d no doubt welcome a return to 2017 form from Cozart. P.S. Asked at a recent team event about the Chicago White Sox’s pursuit of Manny Machado, East Central Community College product Tim Anderson had this to say to mlb.com: “He would play a great role in what we are trying to do as far as winning a championship. He definitely brings that talent.” Machado’s preferred position is shortstop, which happens to be where Anderson has played, very capably, the past three seasons. … Former DeSoto Central star Austin Riley is on the MLB Pipeline list of the Top 10 third base prospects for a fourth straight year, checking in at No. 3 in 2019. He has 71 homers over four minor league seasons and finished 2018 with 12 in 75 games at Triple-A Gwinnett. The 21-year-old’s path to The Show is currently blocked by veteran Josh Donaldson, signed as a free agent by Atlanta in November.
Travis Demeritte is one of the most intriguing players on the Mississippi Braves’ roster. He is a former first-round draft pick. He has played in an All-Star Futures Game and two minor league all-star games. He has hit as many as 28 homers in a season and swiped as many as 17 bases in a season. He stands 6 feet, weighs 180 pounds and can play second base, third and left field. MLB Pipeline rates him the 19th-best prospect in a strong Atlanta system. Yet many M-Braves fans must be wondering, When is Demeritte going to break out? With roughly a month and a half left in his second Double-A campaign, Demeritte is hitting .221 with 11 homers and four bags. He has struck out an even 100 times in 308 at-bats. If the M-Braves, currently 15-14 and 6 games out of first, are going to make any kind of run at a playoff spot in the Southern League South, more production from the 23-year-old Demeritte would be a big help. When the Braves acquired him from Texas (for two pitching prospects) in the summer of 2016, the trade generated some buzz. Demeritte was batting .272 with 25 homers and 13 steals in 88 games in the Class A California League. He added three homers and four steals in 35 games for the Braves’ high-A club. But he did punch out a bunch, and that trend continued in his Double-A debut last year. He hit 15 homers in 124 games – and made the SL All-Star Game – but all in all, it was a disappointing year. There hasn’t been much to shout about in 2018, either, but there is still time – for him and his club. The M-Braves begin a stretch of 10 straight home games tonight, facing Mobile at Trustmark Park. P.S. One of Mobile’s hottest hitters is Jack Kruger, the ex-Mississippi State star drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. Kruger, a catcher, has hit .333 his last 10 games and is at .308 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 25 games. He was promoted to Double-A Mobile on June 21, when Meridian Community College alum Wade Wass, also a catcher, retired and opened a roster spot.
This year was going to be different for Zack Cozart. After enduring four straight losing seasons in Cincinnati, the ex-Ole Miss star signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Angels, a star-studded club expected to contend for the postseason. If the Angels do make the playoffs, Cozart will only be watching. The team announced Wednesday night that the veteran infielder will have season-ending shoulder surgery. The news broke during the Angels’ game at Boston, and MLB Network analyst Tom Verducci called it “a key injury” for the team, which is winning but still searching for top-of-the-lineup consistency. “That’s another option that is gone now,” Verducci said. Cozart, a 2017 National League All-Star who batted .297 with 24 homers for the Reds, had been slow to adjust to his new league, batting .219 with five homers in 58 games. He had started at third base, second and shortstop. This is the second major injury for the 32-year-old in four years; he missed most of the 2015 season with a knee.
This weekend’s Subway Series is the first for Ole Miss product Mickey Callaway as New York Mets manager. The scuffling Mets, losers of six straight, host the rampaging Yankees – whose hitting coach is Louisville native Marcus Thames — for three games at CitiField, all coming to a TV network near you. Mississippi State product Jonathan Holder (2.75 ERA) has done good work out of the Yankees’ bullpen. … An injury to Andrelton Simmons has meant a return to shortstop for Zack Cozart. The Ole Miss alum, signed by the Los Angeles Angels in the off-season to man third base, actually has moved about quite a bit on the dirt for L.A. He has 32 starts at third, 15 at second and five at short, the position he played for seven seasons with Cincinnati. Simmons, who could be out 2-6 weeks with an ankle sprain, might be the best defensive shortstop in the game, but Cozart is no slouch. In fact, Angels manager Mike Scioscia called him an “incredible shortstop.” What the Angels would like to see is a little more offense from their $38 million free agent, who is batting .229 with five homers and 18 RBIs. … Tonight, Cozart and the Angels will face Minnesota’s Lance Lynn, another former Rebels star. Lynn, also an off-season free agent signee, is 4-4 with a 5.46 for the Twins and has won three starts in a row. Worth noting: Cozart is .128 career vs. Lynn. … Arizona’s acquisition of outfielder Jon Jay might cut into Jarrod Dyson’s playing time. McComb native Dyson is hitting just .206 (with 10 steals) overall but is at .318 in his last seven games. And his defense is top-drawer. … Tonight marks a homecoming of sorts for Daniel Sweet, the Flowood native and former Northwest Rankin High star who plays for Pensacola, which is in Pearl for a five-game Southern League series against the Mississippi Braves. Sweet, a switch-hitting outfielder, is in his third season in the Cincinnati organization after being drafted out of Dallas Baptist. He is hitting .148 in 25 games for the Blue Wahoos in his first taste of Double-A. He was batting .284 in A-ball when he was promoted. … Tyler Marlette has been on a tear for the M-Braves, batting .382 in his last 10 games and .296 with six homers for the year. First baseman Marlette, 25, named to the SL All-Star Game on Wednesday, signed with Atlanta in the off-season after seven years in the Seattle organization. He is a career .272 hitter with 68 homers.
Desmond Jennings, the former Itawamba Community College star, is back in the game, playing for Monclova in the Mexican League. Jennings, who has 567 games of big league experience, was released twice by MLB teams in 2017 – Cincinnati in spring training and the New York Mets off their Triple-A roster in June. The 31-year-old outfielder still has some game, batting .339 with seven homers and 30 RBIs through 26 contests in Mexico, which is regarded as Triple-A level. Jennings, drafted by Tampa Bay in the 10th round in 2006, was a hot shot in the minors, winning Southern League MVP honors in 2009 and playing in two All-Star Futures Games. He hit .245 with 55 homers and 95 steals in his big league career; he last played in The Show with the Rays in 2016. … Alex Yarbrough, the ex-Ole Miss standout, is no longer in the game. The infielder retired quietly in February. Yarbrough, only 26, was a fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Angels in 2012, earned Texas League player of the year honors in 2014 and reached Triple-A the next year. But that was his peak. He spent last year in the Double-A Southern League, batting .231 for Jacksonville in the Miami system.
With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, the Detroit Tigers needed a baserunner. JaCoby Jones, leading off the inning, gave them one. The Richton High product delivered an infield single, went first to third on a hit by Niko Goodrum and scored the game-winning run on a single by Jose Iglesias. The 5-4 win on Sunday gave the short-handed Tigers a series victory against a good Seattle club. “I’m having a blast,” Jones said in an mlb.com article. “I think the whole clubhouse is having a blast.” Jones, playing regularly in the outfield, is batting .256 with 16 runs, two homers and eight RBIs. … At Anaheim, the Angels were tied with Minnesota in the ninth and had a runner at second with one out. Former Ole Miss star Zack Cozart stepped up and delivered a single to left, scoring Chris Young and giving the Angels a 2-1 win. It was the third hit of the game for Cozart, now batting .241 with 15 RBIs and five homers, and his second walk-off knock for Los Angeles. … In Phoenix, Arizona trailed Washington by three in the seventh but had runners at second and third with one out. Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Jarrod Dyson, sent up as a pinch hitter, smacked a two-run single and then sped home with the game-tying run on a double by Daniel Descalso. Despite Dyson’s efforts, the first-place Diamondbacks fell 6-4 as the Nationals completed a four-game sweep. Dyson is batting .184 with eight RBIs and nine runs in 87 at-bats.
Aside from nasty weather, what’s the biggest story in the big leagues to date? It’s a tough call. Shohei Ohtani and the surging Los Angeles Angels? The red-hot Boston Red Sox? The amazin’ New York Mets? A case could be made for any of the three first-place teams – and it’s interesting to note that there’s a Mississippi connection on each club. Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart has had an impact as a newcomer with the 13-3 Angels, batting .273 with two homers and seven RBIs. In Boston (13-2), which travels to Anaheim for a three-game set beginning Tuesday, former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland is batting .292 in his sporadic calls to duty. And ex-UM star Drew Pomeranz should be joining the Red Sox rotation soon. The Mets, managed by former Ole Miss pitcher Mickey Callaway, have the best ERA in the majors and the best record (12-2) in the National League. They host NL East rival Washington in a big series starting tonight. For the record, the other first-place teams also have Mississippi ties: Southern Miss product Brian Dozier (.289, four homers) and Ole Miss’ Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.00 ERA) with Minnesota; Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson (.358, 12 RBIs) and ex-State star Adam Frazier (.250) with Pittsburgh (where Clint Hurdle is the manager); and Southwest CC product Jarrod Dyson (.176) with Arizona.
During the broadcast of Shohei Ohtani’s MLB pitching debut today on MLB Network, it was noted that only three players in big league history have produced both a 10-win season and a 10-home run season at some point in their career. Ohtani, whom the Los Angeles Angels plan to use as both a DH and a starting pitcher, did it in the same season twice in Japan. The great Babe Ruth did both in 1918, when he was with the Boston Red Sox, going 13-7 on the mound and hitting 11 homers, the first of 17 straight double-digit homer seasons. Rick Ankiel, who broke in as a pitcher and converted to the outfield, did it during his career (1999-2013) but not in the same season. The only other player to achieve this impressive feat was Jackson native Ewell Albert “Reb” Russell, who played in the early 1900s. Russell, a left-hander, won 23 games as a rookie for the Chicago White Sox in 1913 and posted three other double-digit win seasons before hurting his arm in 1918. He spent some time in the minors, came back to the big leagues in 1922 with Pittsburgh and belted 12 homers in 60 games. He hit nine more the next year in what was his final fling in the majors.